Update 10/6/20: Eddie Van Halen, musical director, lead guitarist, the band Van Halen’s namesake, and an avid car collector, died today at age 65 after a long battle with lung cancer. His Lamborghini Miura is the revving car in the song “Panama” from the band’s 1984 album. He was known for his innovative guitar playing which, along with his brother Alex on drums, Michael Anthony on bass, and flamboyant frontman David Lee Roth, pushed the band to stardom in the late 70s, early 80s. This piece was originally published in the July 2016 issue and we are bringing it back in his memory.
Like any red-blooded kid growing up in Pasadena, California—hometown of that famous little old lady—Eddie Van Halen had a taste for hot cars. After his band’s self-titled debut album went platinum in 1978, he cycled through a collection nearly as exceptional as his guitar playing, from a succession of 12-cylinder Lamborghinis and Ferraris to his current favorite, a new Porsche 911 GT3 RS.
6, 8, 10, 12
Van Halen’s current collection includes a Lamborghini Miura, a Porsche 911 GT3 RS, and two Audi R8s, a V-8 and a V-10. Both R8s are supercharged and fitted with custom exhaust systems. And then there’s a 1947 Dodge flatbed for slow rides.
C/D: Are there any similarities between the stage and the track?
EVH: Practice, obviously. The adrenaline rush is similar. You’re always pushing the edge, on stage live and driving on a track. But improvising at the drop of a hat is the biggest thing. There are no do-overs. If you spin out, you spin out. If you mess up live, you smile your way through it or improvise quick, just like if there’s an accident in front of you or somebody’s trying to pass you.
C/D: Your new 911 GT3 RS, that’s a hard-core purist’s choice. What do you love about it?
EVH: For one, it’s just so light. But really, it’s the handling. I don’t know how Porsche did it. We raced in the rain at Buttonwillow, which is my favorite track. We raced in the fucking rain and we never lost it, never spun out. BBI [Autosport] did my suspension. I set it up so you can feel it go and you can actually slide the damn car. It’s the first time ever I’ve been able to four-wheel-drift a Porsche. Every other Porsche I’ve ever had, I’ve spun them all. Well, every 911, anyway.
C/D: What’s your most memorable drive?
EVH: That’s easy. Since I bought the V-8 R8, Audi contacted me and offered for us to go up to Infineon [Sonoma Raceway] to test-drive the V-10 on the track. You know, just go crazy. So [my wife] Janie and I drove up in her Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG. It’s a long drive and we’re doing about 90, 95 in a 65, and I get pulled over and the guy writes me up for a ticket. I’m going, “The last thing I need is a speeding ticket for that much over the speed limit.” We get home and I get a letter from my office; the patrol guy who gave me the ticket, his captain voided it. He said, “You don’t give Eddie Van Halen a ticket,” and I had a letter to prove it. The letter came straight from the captain.
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